Gardening plays a crucial role in providing fresh and nutritious food as a major part of self-sufficiency. Companion planting is one of the methods used in growing food using permaculture principles. While individual plants have their own unique requirements, companion planting can naturally provide mutual benefits to each plant. This will increase productivity, enhance pest control, and promote healthier growth. By planting certain edible plants together, you can create a harmonious garden that thrives and contributes to your self-sufficiency goals
In this article, we delve into the world of companion planting, exploring its benefits and highlighting some edible plants that thrive when planted together. Whether you have a small plot or a larger garden, companion planting offers a sustainable and rewarding way to boost self-sufficiency.
The Benefits of Companion Planting
- Pest Control: One of the most significant advantages of companion planting is its ability to deter pests naturally. Certain plant combinations can repel harmful insects or attract beneficial ones, creating a balanced ecosystem within your garden. For example, marigolds emit a scent that repels aphids and other common pests, making them excellent companions for vegetables like tomatoes and peppers.
- Improved Soil Fertility: Companion planting can enhance soil fertility by utilizing plants that have complementary nutrient requirements. For instance, legumes, such as beans and peas, fix nitrogen in the soil. This benefits neighbouring plants that need nitrogen by providing them with the vital nutrient. When combined with heavy feeders like corn or squash, nitrogen-fixing plants create a mutually beneficial relationship that promotes overall garden health.
- Space Optimization: Growing plants with different growth habits together can maximize the use of available space. Tall plants can provide shade or support for climbing vines, while groundcover plants can suppress weeds and prevent soil erosion. By carefully selecting compatible plants, you can create a multi-layered garden that utilizes vertical and horizontal space efficiently.
Plants That Grow Well Together
- Squash, Beans and Corn: A traditional companion planting combination. Corn provides support for the climbing beans, while the beans fix nitrogen in the soil for the benefit of both the corn and the squash. The large leaves of the sprawling squash plants act as a living mulch, preventing weed growth and conserving soil moisture.
- Tomatoes, Basil and Marigolds: Tomatoes and basil are a classic example of companion planting. Basil acts as a natural insect repellent for tomatoes, particularly against pests like whiteflies and aphids. Additionally, basil’s aromatic leaves enhance the flavour of tomatoes when used together in culinary dishes. Marigolds provide additional deterrent to pests such as aphids, and adds a nice display of colourful flowers to your garden! Plant basil and marigolds near your tomato plants to enjoy these benefits.
- Carrots, Lettuce and Rosemary: Carrots and lettuce make excellent companions in the garden. Carrots grow mainly underground, while lettuce grows mainly above ground with relatively small root systems. The two can be grown together to make maximum use of space. Adding something strongly scented, such as rosemary helps repel pests that typically bother carrots, such as carrot flies. Other strongly scented crops, such as onions can have the same effect. An added benefit is that carrots help deter onion pests like onion flies. Plant them together, and you’ll have a natural defence system against these pesky insects.
- Cabbage, Celery and Nasturtiums: Cabbage plants are an easy target for aphids, caterpillars and other insects. Many insects avoid celery because it is very aromatic. Nasturtiums serve as sacrificial plants, attracting aphids and cabbage worms away from cabbage and other brassicas. This provides extra protection for your cabbages. Additionally, nasturtiums are edible and make a delightful addition to salads or as a garnish.
- Peppers, Onions and Garlic: Pepper plants are often attacked by aphids. Onion and garlic plants produce a strong scent that deters aphids. Plant onions or garlic around the base of pepper plants to deter aphids from eating your pepper plants, and you’ll improve your crop.
- Cucumbers, Root Vegetables and peas: Cucumbers take a lot of space above ground, but only send down one main tap root. This leaves plenty of space below the spreading leaves of the cucumber plants to grow root vegetables such as radishes, carrots or parsnips. Add some pea plants, which will climb above the cucumbers (use pea sticks for them to climb), to add nitrogen to the soil.
Companion Planting Infographic
Here’s our useful infographic with examples of plants that can be planted together for mutual benefits. These examples are great starting points to try out companion planting in your food garden.
Companion planting is a fascinating and practical technique. It is great for self-sufficiency by maximizing garden productivity, enhancing pest control, and improving overall plant health. By understanding the beneficial relationships between certain plants, you can create a harmonious garden that thrives with minimal reliance on chemical interventions. Our examples above are great starting points, but there are numerous combinations to explore in your quest for self-sufficiency.
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